The Editors Write: If one’s seeking signs of health among the country’s surrealist and post-modern movements, one need only train one’s eyes westward. Southern California, for reasons that remain mostly inexplicable, remains a hotbed for surrealist poetry, and few approach it with as much verve and flair as Jaimes Palacio. Palacio is the sort of surrealist who eschews willful strangeness in favor of presenting a world that is simply odd the way it is, drawing focus to bizarre details that most around him have long filtered out. Palacio’s world doesn’t make sense, and he doesn’t pretend otherwise. Moreover, he looks into the madness for the thin strands of humanity running throughout, turning what could be word salad, an empty puree of pop culture imagery, into something overflowing with compassion, outrage and humor.
Rod Serling Is Not An Artichoke in the Twilight Zone
by Jaimes Palacio
What we know is often sin baby.
There are planes and trains to catch.
Bruises to hand out like business
The sick man falls like a tornado.
Falls in love like friendly fire.
He misses you like bullets miss
The monsters are due on Elm Street
and they have pre-empted my favorite
program; the one that blinks and drops
time in it’s titles.
We are all vegetable or mineral, in these
shallow ponds. This is just a toyboat life
and that mountain is the face of a child
who has been spoiled beyond redemption.
That man in the dapper suit is not anything
ugly. The narrator of this story is not an artichoke.
An angry clock or a bowl of bees.
He is not a pig nose they call beauty. He is not
an airplane running out of fuel over a prehistoric land. Or
a Talking Tina doll. He will not threaten to “kill you.”
The monsters are due on Elm street but they are
running late. Did you not receive their text? They
will be arriving shortly. Please put out some nuts.
The sick man howls into the ocean. We are all vegetable
or mineral. He cries “I am not!” The man in the dapper suit
is a reporter. The man in the dapper suit records seismic
disturbances. His cigarette is a baton to ward away monsters.
But monsters are due. They will arrive in a big, black,
S.U.V. with Florida plates. They will have Telly Savalas’
severed head as a hood ornament. They will scream like televangelists.
They will ban Gay Marriages and burn all the sick, sick, twisted boys.
Writes Palacio: “I have always loved and been intrigued by the great surrealists like Salvador Dali and René Magritte. I also have always held a deep respect and awe for writers that can blend these elements but have a deeply humanistic bent, like Rod Serling. Daniel McGinn manages to be a master of the surreal and yet, has always used this means to a humanistic end. He also can be quite funny. Outside of poetry, Daniel is just great people.”
In The Dark
by Daniel McGinn
Your family, in a tight circle
gazed across the fire ring.
Her hair was full of sparks,
her eyes were raw as onions.
The sand began to moan
and move beneath your feet
but you rode it like a wave.
Then the sky started falling
out of both sides
of her mouth.
The hills behind your heart
were blooming heat,
your impaled marshmallow
began to turn,
from soft skin to scab,
from stiff skin to puss,
all of the coat hangers
Twenty years have passed.
You are half asleep.
You lie on the bed with a gun
sticking out of your mouth.
She asks, “Are you dreaming?”
She asks, “How have you been
sleeping lately?” “Off and on,”
you think, “all things come
A fire burns in your chest.
You have been feeding it
and it takes something away
every time you breathe.
You slide down deeper
underneath the blanket.
“Where are you going?” Her
disembodied voice asks,
“and where have you been?”
Once again, the wind
approaches you like a whore,
no one summons it,
but the fire just loves it.
Half awake now, your mind drifts
with a car into opposing traffic.
The bed jerks and you startle her.
This is real.
You keep on hurting yourself.
Now the fire is spreading
to the hills behind the highway,
the waves are breaking,
the wind is singing
and it just won’t stop.
Writes Palacio: “The first time I heard Loretta Obstfeld was in an open reading. Open readers tend to be wildly hit or miss, and after nearly 16 years of attending open readings you tend to get a little jaded and, frankly, ‘zone out.’ much of the time. So, when you hear a poem that not only makes you pay attention but blows you away, it is time for rejoicing. I was so impressed by Loretta’s pieces that night, that I immediately asked to feature her at a reading I was hosting. I usually don’t take that kind of a risk until I’ve seen much more work from an artist, but she did me proud that night. As with Daniel McGinn, what really attracts me about Loretta’s work is the surreal, yet humanistic approach in her writing. And again, she can be funny. Sometimes subversively so.”
By Loretta Obstfeld
Fact: eighty-three percent of people
in the Western Hemisphere don’t trust
poems. Wouldn’t give a poem
any real responsibility or make a world
based on a particularly poignant metaphor.
Fact: Elephants have been known to break
into locked buildings to retrieve bones
of their ancestors. Hard innards softly read
by the tip of a trunk, lifting a femur onto tusks,
a bone baby in a bone cradle carried into a field,
slow moving beasts on the lam with the long dead.
In the distance, an African dawn: the standard-issue
rosy-fingered variety. A poem will say
it’s the breaking and entering, the forgoing of food
and other elephant priorities in order to find ourselves
locked and then freed. Fact: if you collect these bones,
beef up your security; notice the world never stops
spinning toward the East and – though it has slowed
with the moon’s nagging pull – it will not falter
because your heart is disillusioned, demoted
to mere muscle function. The Earth humps forward,
a grunt with trench foot and a rolled-up porn mag
stuffed in his forty-pound pack, a virtual Yes Man
to physics. Understanding this,
let your eyes fall on anyone’s smile–see bone
pebbles revealed in a pull of warm flesh–and wonder
at the angle of a rogue incisor. Ponder elephants.
Think of Africa. Tilt toward metaphor.